The other night, whilst I slept I attended a super exclusive screening of Star Wars : The Force Awakens. It was so exclusive you could only gain entry by living inside my subconsciousness.
In what could literally be described as a dreamlike experience I only saw the first 30 minutes of the movie but I saw enough to share some incredible insights (and spoilers) on this non-existent cut of Star Wars VII.
Firstly, no STAR WARS intro. It’s a bold move by JJ and one that absolutely does not pay off. A proper Star Wars movie with no opening crawl? No rousing John Williams score? Yeurgh!
Instead the movie cold opens in a dingy looking cave. There’s a character holding a flaming torch and clambering his way through the tight passages. IT’S HAN SOLO! What’s he doing? He’s up to something rascally that’s for sure, we know this because of the jaunty bassoon music by John Williams. Before we get to find out what is happening we suddenly smash cut to an extreme close up of BB-8.
We hear him beeping away and the camera slowly zooms out to show him whizzing along. We follow BB-8 as he wheels his way through some kind of desert village. We see other droids doing all sorts of stuff. One is doing the dishes, another is carrying the shopping home. A couple of small child robots are chasing each other down the street. This goes on for a good ten minutes and is hugely boring. You kinda get the idea that JJ is showing us the minutiae of the Star Wars universe but I just wanted to see some lasers and shit.
We then jump to the next scene. We’re introduced to animated child versions of Luke & Leia. For some reason they need to travel back in time, the reasons why aren’t clear. It turns out that their passage back through the ages lies in a video arcade from the 1980’s. They find what they’re looking for, a ‘Return of the Jedi’ arcade machine. No effort is made to acknowledge the meta-aspects of the arcade machine. Child Luke and child Leia walk up to the machine and touch the display. Blue animated arcs of lightning shoot out of the machine and ‘BLIP!’ they are both sucked in. The camera slowly pans around and peering from behind another arcade machine is DARTH VADER. The music builds in intensity as the camera zooms in super close on his face. At the musical crescendo he lets out a jolly ‘heh heh heh’ very much in the style of Homer Simpson.
At that point I suddenly remembered that I had to be somewhere else and promptly left the cinema. The world’s press was waiting outside and they wanted to know what I thought of the movie so they could go and tell Leonardo Dicaprio.
At that point I woke up, somewhat relieved that I hadn’t just watch the actual new Star Wars film.
It’s now less than a week until I see a new Star Wars film (I’m going at 00:01 on Thursday, UK time) and I think my sub-conscious is more excited it than me.
Mutants are easy to spot. They either have wobbly photoshopped heads or look like Kevin Bacon.
The other week I finally got to see X-Men : First Class having successfully avoided seeing any footage of the movie beforehand. It was a great film, sure there’s the odd clunk of ropey dialogue or slight blemish of unfinished SFX but considering the limited budget and production time it’s a miracle that Matthew Vaughn and his colleagues managed to piece together such a great movie.
However for all its excellent touches something has troubled me about the climactic scenes of the film (major spoilers ahead if you’ve not yet seen the movie).
In the final act our heroes, the prototype X-Men, head out on their first ever mission. On the one hand the mission is a success, world-wide disaster is averted. On the other hand it’s a mission consisting of some major fuck ups. Don’t believe me? Here’s the incident report form following that event.
Super-Secret Super Hero Incident Report Form
Name : Charles Xavier
Occupation : Psychic Leader of the X-Men and that.
Gender : Male
Height : Not as tall as I was last week.
Hair : Yes (lol)
What do you think went well with your most recent mission ?
We stopped World War Three. (Yay!)
What do you think went less well ?
Just before we set off a member of our team secretly used an untested drug and disfigured himself.
We crashed the jet, sorry.
Our actions lead the government to declare mutant-kind as a menace.
Two members of our team (one of them a life-long friend) defected in order to start a new war against humanity.
We made a bit of a mess of the beach. Again, sorry.
Oh, and I was shot in the spine and lost the use of my legs.
Any other comments?
Yes, I will send them to you using my mind powers. *rubs temples*
As far as first days at work go I’ve seen better (although I’m not one to talk, my first day working in a supermarket I was horrendously hungover and threw up in the deodorant aisle but I digress). I’m guessing for the sequel the newly crowned X-Men will be kept busy with more menial tasks such as filing papers or cleaning drains. Then again Matthew Vaughn already has better ideas.
Have you seen the trailer for the latest X-Men movie? I’ve heard that it’s brilliant, and I mean that literally. I heard it and it sounded brilliant. I couldn’t actually see it though due to my hands covering my eyes at the time.
A bit like this.
It’s easy to forget how the Internet has changed the way we digest new movies. In the days of yore I would feel very lucky to get a glimpse of the latest Hollywood blockbuster. As a child the regular access to anything resembling footage from a new movie would be via some kind of feature on ‘Going Live‘ or ‘Get Fresh’ with Gareth ‘Gaz Top’ Jones. Back then, movie trailers only really existed in cinemas or on VHS tapes rented from the local video shop (Bath Road Videos in my case).
When the trailer for ‘The Phantom Menace’ was released in 1998BB (Before Broadband) I remember Channel 4 devoting a time-slot to it so we could watch it in all it’s pre-dissapointment glory. Just over 10 years ago I clearly remember waiting the best part of an hour to download a teaser trailer over a dial-up connection for Bryan Singer’s first X-Men movie. After all that waiting all I had was a scrawny sized little video to watch. How times have changed.
Movie trailers are no longer the rare artifact they once were, these days you can hop on any number of movie blogs, YouTube or even iTunes and while away a merry hour or two soaking up montages of exploding large letters on dark backgrounds and deep-voiced narrators (I’m generalising here). These days it’s possible to download an entire HD trailer in less time than it takes to watch the damn thing. The temptation to re-watch, freeze frame and over-analyse each shot only serves to foolishly elevate the excitement for the forthcoming motion picture whilst potentially spoiling any surprise in the final result. I’ve started to realise that this has become a problem for me.
With every re-watch of a new trailer my brain starts putting the shots together like a puzzle, building a theory on how the film actually plays out. By the time I reach the cinema I’m not properly watching the film, I’m too busy playing the ‘spot-the-cool-bits-from-the-trailer’ game.
Of course that doesn’t apply to every film, right now JJ Abrams latest movie ‘Super8’ is getting some very positive press regarding it’s spoiler free promotion campaign but sadly in such a highly competitive marketplace not many films can afford the luxury of secrecy.
Well now I have decided to change all that. A while back a new trailer for ‘X-Men : First Class’ splurged it’s way onto the internet and even though it was all over the movie blogs I decided to stay away from it. Normally I’d be all over a new X-Men trailer like butter on toast but since ‘Wolverine’ and ‘The Last Stand’ shat their way through the local multiplex my excitement for a new X-Men movie has dulled somewhat. Armed with this muted excitement I have so far avoided any footage before seeing the final product, hopefully when I do see the movie it will be with a totally clean slate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much looking forward to seeing this movie. It has a great director in Matthew Vaughn, a writing team that know how to work a story, a funky period setting and a great cast. I’m just intrigued to see what it would be like to see a big new movie with no preconceptions of any of the content involved.
This plan was recently put through it’s most extreme step when a trailer appeared before a showing of ‘Thor’ (surprisingly very enjoyable, I give it Thor out of five (sorry!)) that I went to. I actually had to sit there, hands over eyes, so I didn’t take in a single blip of retro-fitted X-Men action. I imagine it can only get harder as the tv spots start to roll out when the release date is upon us. If I can go into this film without seeing how a single shot plays out it will be the first time I’ve seen a big Hollywood movie like that since, since.. Christ! I couldn’t actually say. Maybe ‘Blade’?
Yikes, that was a long time ago. Curse you internet and your amazing media delivery capabilities!
It’s amazing how a simple change in music and some nifty editing can totally alter your perception on something. A Youtube user by the name of ‘Rothejfunk’ has re-cut a new Ghostbusters trailer to the music from Inception and in one fell swoop has given the 80’s classic a ‘bang-up-to-date’ feel.
In a weird way this suddenly feels like a film I’ve never seen before and I want to watch it… but I have already seen it. It almost makes me think that a third Ghostbusters film could be a good thing after all (although I think I’ve had my fill of delayed sub-par sequels to 80’s movies from my childhood).
I know it’s a pun that’s been done to death elsewhere but having just watched Tron: Legacy I really don’t have a CLUe about where I stand on this film. For some reason Tron carries a very strong resonance from my childhood, I can remember seeing it at the cinema when it came out (I would have been about 5 or 6) and loving the visuals but not having a CLUe (sorry, last one I promise) about the story. Since then in the span of almost thirty years I’ve only seen the whole film at most a dozen times more, which puts it far down the list of movies that I watched repeatedly during my childhood. Films such as Terminator 2:Judgement Day, Die Hard, The Indiana Jones Trilogy and BTTF (by odd coincidence 3 of those 4 examples have suffered from belated disappointing sequels) all regularly took up space in my VHS player but Tron? Not so much and yet that mysterious bond to the franchise is still there. I guess this is why I am not foaming at the mouth with impotent rage at Tron : Legacy. Yes, with ‘Legacy’ I was mildly bored in places and yes, CGI Jeff Bridges is an uncomfortable watch and yes, if I never see the film again I won’t be too upset and yet strangely I feel like I shouldn’t put it down too much. At least it’s not another ‘Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull’ and for that I am thankful.
The first alarm bells go off just a few minutes into the movie, after a very nice intro sequence that neatly places us in Sam Flynn’s bedroom we get our first look at CGI Jeff Bridges and by ‘look’ I actually mean ‘overlong stare at his rubbery dead-in-the-eyes face’. It’s enough to make you squirm in your seat and it doesn’t stop there, CGI Bridges appears throughout the entire movie especially during the numerous flashback sequences. To give the film makers credit there are plenty of occasions when they almost nail it, the hair looks perfect, the skin texture is there but it’s always the dead eyes that gives the trick away and before you know it you’re falling head first into an IMAX sized uncanny valley.
Tron 2 : Electric Booga-CLU
Fake CGI people are least of the films problems, there’s pacing issues, hokey dialogue (“bio-digital jazz” anyone?) and a handful of un-engaging lead characters who meander from point A to point B, a bit like The Matrix Reloaded but not as bad (although it doesn’t reach the few high points of The Matrix Reloaded either). Certain story points aren’t fleshed out enough or totally wasted; Flynn’s retro lightcycle is introduced and then tossed away in a heartbeat and just what is the actual threat of Clu breaking into the real world? It’s implied he would royally fuck things up for us but with no idea how and to what extent it’s difficult to appreciate the threat and how on earth would his massive army and huge battleship squeeze into the exit point of the grid i.e. Flynn’s lab in the basement of the arcade? A few bolder story ideas are brushed upon but never really explored, a prime example being Clu’s faults that are born from Flynn’s own flawed character therefore making them one and the same.
It’s not all bad news though, the action scenes early in the film play out nicely (despite how easy it is to lose track of whose who), Olivia Williams does a good job with her naive but feisty character and Garrett Hedlund does better than expected. It’s lovely to see Bruce ‘Tron’ Boxleitner from the original movie make an appearance and I quite enjoyed Michael Sheen channelling David Bowie although his role will definitely polarise opinions as well as bring up Merovingian/Matrix comparisons. Daft Punk prove an excellent choice as soundtrack composers and their big screen debut offering is excellent throughout the movie, it definitely bolsters what could otherwise have been a flat experience. Obviously the whole thing looks lovely and despite the complaints about Clu 2 it says something that not for a second did I have an issue about how good the world of The Grid looked. There’s a sneaky ‘Wizard of Oz’ style ‘2D-to-3D’ switch when Sam is first transported to The Grid but overall the 3D isn’t worth the extra cost of admission, it’s not as bad as ‘Clash Of The Titans’ but it’s no match for ‘Avatar’ either in fact towards the end I forgot the 3D effect was even there.
Olivia Williams saving the movie there, well done you!
In the end the thing that boggles my brain the most is the paradox of how Tron: Legacy is a sequel that has been designed to work as a standalone film. You could possibly quite easily watch this film without seeing the first as all the required back-story is offered up via flashbacks which in a way negates the need for the first film to even exist. As a story ‘Legacy’ doesn’t do much of anything to expand upon what’s already been set up which makes me wonder why it needed to be a Tron film at all? The title character is merely a peripheral element to the story and if you strip all the Tron elements away you’re left with a none too original ‘boy trapped inside a computer’ story. Considering the potential of the source material it sadly all seems like something of a wasted opportunity. If anything the whole exercise comes across as a move to capitalise on a cult brand and hook in people like me which is ironic given Disney’s efforts to distance the original film from today’s younger audience amid concerns that it’s dated looks would damage Legacy’s box office; have you seen a Tron Blu-ray or DVD on a store shelf anywhere lately? Thought not.
So, 900+ words later and I’m still no clearer on where I stand. Tron: Legacy is a film with plenty of problems to stop me from going back for another watch and yet despite my complaints I didn’t hate it enough to out & out say it was utter shit. Although I did end up writing a lengthy blog post about it, I guess that’s unexplainable childhood resonance for you.